Midterms are right around the corner, and like many other political situations these days, things are heating up. Since midterms will determine things like who controls the Senate, it may have a huge impact on national politics. The Florida midterms are shaping up to be one of the tensest midterms in recent history, so it’s a good idea to be informed before election day.
What’s On the Ballot?
Why are Florida’s midterms such a big deal? A lot is riding on this session. The Florida ballot contains several tense political races and highly-debated constitutional amendments.Read More »
The other big race will be for a seat representing Florida in the national Senate. Midterms will decide whether the current Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, remains in office. His challenger, Val Demings, is a Democrat who has represented Florida in the House of Representatives before. The Senate has been closely tied between Republicans and Democrats, so this Midterm election could swing the whole Senate towards one party.
In addition to these major races, there are also a lot of smaller things Florida voters must decide. People will be voting on national representatives, local representatives, and local judges. Some proposed constitutional amendments will affect things like Florida property taxes and Florida legal process. If confirmed, these amendments may potentially make it harder to update the constitution or allow bigger exemptions on property taxes.
Florida Enacts Concerning Voting Laws Ahead of the Election
The months leading up to the midterms have included a lot of controversy for Florida. Voting rights watchdogs have highlighted several problematic policies that could impact Florida citizens’ ability to vote.
Arrests of Felony Voters
The 2018 decision to give felons back their voting rights was overwhelmingly approved by Floridians. However, despite the public voting for this policy, the state legislature added a lot of additional rules that drastically limited felon voting rights. Following the decision to restore voting rights, the legislature created a law that said all felons must pay all financial obligations before they could vote.
Unfortunately, many felons were not told about the new law. These people voted under the impression that their rights were restored, and they did not realize they also had to pay extensive fines before voting. In the weeks before the election, DeSantis launched an election crimes unit that arrested 20 felons who voted before paying their fines.
Body camera footage showed that most of the arrested people were confused by their arrests. They were allowed to register and vote without anyone informing them of the new law requiring them to pay fines. In some cases, government officials like DMV employees even encouraged them to register to vote. Legal experts mention that the arrested people may not be convicted, since most did not deliberately commit fraud, and DeSantis opponents have criticized the highly-publicized arrests as political theater.
Decreased Ability to Vote by Mail
Florida used to allow a lot of voting by mail since their population includes a lot of seniors with health problems. However, there has been a huge push to limit voting by mail recently. The state legislature has passed laws that make it harder to sign up for voting by mail. Citizens must provide a form of ID that matches whatever ID they originally used to register to vote.
Furthermore, the number of drop boxes has been reduced. People can only drop off their ballots at supervised areas where a paid employee watches them in person. This has removed many drop boxes that used to be supervised by a camera. Many drop boxes only operate during traditional business hours, so working-class people may find it harder to return their ballots.
New laws also state that people are only allowed to drop off ballots for two non-family members at a time. This law puts an end to many church programs and healthcare initiatives that involved picking up ballots for invalids and dropping them off at an early voting site.
Criminal Charges for Helping Those in Line
All of the reductions in voting by mail mean that many Florida citizens will face longer lines on voting day. Unfortunately, these waits are likely to be unpleasant. New laws include a lot of vague provisions that essentially make line warming illegal.
Line warming refers to a common practice of providing water and food to those who are waiting to vote. It is now prohibited due to concerns that line warmers may influence votes. Unfortunately, it also has the effect of discouraging voters. Those who are waiting in long lines are now more likely to get uncomfortable and leave to go get food or drinks.
Campaigns Are Getting Intense as Election Day Approaches
As the election day draws close, candidates have put even more effort into reaching potential voters. Over $112 million has been spent on just Florida’s Senate contest, and the gubernatorial candidates have raised even more. Crist has $28.4 million in campaign funding while DeSantis has $183.2 million. These funds are being put towards a variety of television, internet, and print ads.
DeSantis and Crist have also been involved in a highly-publicized debate. On the first day of early voting, the two candidates faced off to discuss their policies and address current events. Notably, DeSantis refused to commit to a full four years in Florida instead of running for president in 2024. The candidates clashed over abortion, with Crist calling current restrictions “barbaric,” and they also argued over whether DeSantis’ relaxed COVID restrictions were beneficial for Florida or not.
They have both received support from other leaders in their parties. President Joe Biden made a stop in Florida to endorse Charlie Crist and Val Demings. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has stated that he’ll be supporting Ron DeSantis. Since they’re backed by so many huge political figures, even those outside of Florida are getting interested in the election. DeSantis is slated to run for president soon, so many see this election as a test run.
Experts Predict Some Controversial Outcomes
With all the buzz surrounding the election, it’s no surprise that voter turnouts are on the rise. There have already been unusually high amounts of early voting. When election day arrives on November 8, numbers are likely to be even higher. Some experts believe Florida may reach record-high numbers for midterm voters.
So far, it’s impossible to guarantee which way the election will go. National averages of polls show DeSantis is around 10 points ahead of Crist. Likewise, Rubio is about 11 points higher than Demings. However, the Republicans’ leads have dropped in the past few weeks. Analysts report that Florida’s politics seem to have swung deeper red in the past few years, but with COVID disproportionately affecting Republicans, there is still a chance for the Democrats.
Regardless of who wins, there is some concern about political unrest. DeSantis has been one of the leading political figures pushing the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen, and if he loses, there are concerns that he may stoke more violence. If the Republicans do win, unpopular policies like abortion restrictions are likely to lead to more political protests in the future.
Florida Voters Still Have a Chance to Make Their Voice Heard
At this point, the election is still up for grabs. Florida election predictions are still somewhat vague. Despite early voting swing in one direction, there is still a lot of time left before the midterms. Those who choose to vote will have a huge impact on who ends up winning.
How can you make sure your voice is heard? Florida’s deadline to register to vote has already passed. However, for those who are registered, there are many ways to vote. Early voting will still proceed through the rest of the week. On Florida’s election date of November 8, polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. To see if you are registered and to find places to vote near you, visit https://dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/.
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